Managing The 7 Deadly Sins In The Workplace

Thursday 04 August 2016
Managing a harmonious, fun, hardworking, inventive and productive team is the utopian dream for many a manager. But are your attempts to make this reality being hindered by the seven deadly sins?

Greed: When is enough too much? The line between ambition and greed is ever so fine. Is there an employee who can’t help but inflate their achievements or even take sole credit for work which they did not do alone?

Infamously, the greed of traders and bankers was blamed in some quarters for helping cause the economic recession in 2008, whereby a succession of risky bets were made in order to achieve bigger bonuses.

And as the bank crisis showed, such greed can have dramatic effects across the world.

Management Tip: You can guide greedy employees to look beyond self-interests and understand the importance of teamwork.

Help the employee realise the team's objectives, including what you are trying to accomplish, the best outcome for the project, deadlines, and his/her role and responsibilities.

In appraisals and target setting, explain the characteristics of a good team player, such as reliability, flexibility and being an effective communicator, and set them as a major part of the individual's main goals.

Lust: Have you noticed two colleagues sneaking away for secretive discussions every so often, arriving at the office together each morning, or suddenly putting in a lot of overtime together?

This could be all very innocent, but there is a chance they could be in a workplace romance.

And with two-fifths of UK workers admitting to having a rendezvous with someone in their office, workplace relationships are pretty common

But they are understatedly tricky to manage, especially when involving senior and junior staff or, even, married parties.

The messier the situation, the more impactful the consequences, with a plethora of cases ending in dismissals, security issues, criminal activity, lawsuits and harassment charges.

Management Tip: Managers should prepare for workplace romances by developing a robust and simple policy for staff to protect all parties, including the employer.

John A. Pearce II, author of What Execs Don’t Get About Office Romance, as published in the Spring 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, said: “To help prevent problems from occurring in the first place, employers should educate employees regarding the company's’ policies concerning office romance.

“The cornerstone of an employer’s efforts to prevent favoritism, sexual harassment and hostile work environments is a policy statement–in writing and widely circulated–informing all employees that the employer actively seeks to identify and eliminate all problems stemming from sexual dynamics.

“The policy should include a complaint procedure, a distribution plan and a system for timely investigations and corrective action. The policy statement should be clear, emphatic, easily understood, free of confusing legal terms and provide examples of conduct targeted for immediate dismissal.”

Wrath: From passive aggressiveness and temper tantrums, to rants and even physical altercations, angry employees are particularly troublesome creating workplace conflict out of almost any situation.

Workplace violence, the worst case scenario, is experienced by one in eight UK employees, according to a recent TUC survey.

As well as being disruptive, angry employees can cause a drop in productivity because anger and frustration creates mental stress that makes it almost impossible for us to do our jobs.

Management Tip: Getting in the middle of a conflict is always a difficult matter, but ignoring the issue altogether and letting it simmer away for weeks and months will only make the situation worse.

Therefore, managers need to identify, mediate and extinguish potential incidents brought about by wrath. This goes as far back as recruitment; picking the right talent with the most suitable attitudes to your team.

Acting as a mediator, managers should move quickly to speak to individuals frequently involved in conflict, gain as much information about why this is the case and work with the whole team to resolve any issues.

Gluttony: Food glorious food. We all love food, but many employees have difficulty maintaining the recommended balanced diet to fuel their working day, and stay healthy.

Some miss breakfast or lunch, or both, while others overeat during their breaks leaving them almost unresponsive for the following hour. And in every office, there is always one foul soul who steals delightful treats from the communal fridge.

Managers have a responsibility to ensure their staff are eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A Milken Institute study showed that unhealthy workers cost companies more than £800billion in lost productivity.

Furthermore, they can lead to a series of life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and depression.

Management Tips: Workplace wellness programmes are a popular way for managers to encourage all employees to take greater care of their eating, exercise and lifestyle.

Rewarding staff for taking on greater exercise, nutritional and stress management initiatives, wellness programmes and other workplace benefits such as flexible working have all been shown to have significant impacts on employee health, as well as large returns on investment for employers.

Envy: Competition for rewards, resources and recognition can drive much of the animosity and ill feelings associated with employee envy and jealousy.

It’s only human for individuals to want to achieve more and be promoted faster, but managers must be aware of employees who are filled with jealously over the success of their colleagues.

Factors that contribute to greater levels of employee resentment include reengineering, diversity and generational conflicts.

In addition to reduced performance, dysfunctional consequences of negative emotion include stress, job dissatisfaction, withdrawal, retaliation and poor citizenship.

Management Tips: One of the most difficult deadly sins to overcome, managers can use the ambition of the envious individual to refocus their efforts for the organisation.

By providing plenty of opportunities for assessment and appraisal, managers can regularly meet with colleagues affirming their good qualities, their positive contribution and outline specific steps of how they can improve themselves areas that will make you shine the next time a promotion opportunity presents itself.

By engaging frequently with individuals and high achievers about their goals, managers can give employees a greater feeling of control over their careers.

Sloth: No matter how passionate you claimed you were about the job in your interview, you will be distracted and waste time at work. And browsing Facebook photos, chatting about last night’s episode of Eastenders and sharing Fantasy Football tips won’t lead to the end of the world.

When this activity begins to outweigh the time spent doing work, however, employers can suffer from a lack of efficiency and productivity.

Management tips: Use downtime to your advantage by allowing employees to use social media channels or text their friends once they’ve completed their tasks.

Companies such as Facebook and Google famously host a number of different games and gadgets for individuals to play with in between tasks. In some UK sales departments, the fun starts before the work with workers playing team games such as Hangman.

Pride: If the likes of Bill Gates, Paul McCartney and Nelson Mandela can make mistakes, then anyone can. But for some employees, admitting that they have made a mistake can be a huge obstacle.

This can be dangerous, as one unspotted small mistake can quickly escalate into a bigger and more damaging departmental mistake.

Perfectionists can cause trouble by slowing progress or demoralising colleagues. Besides that, there is the issue of trust, with a study by workplace performance improvement firm Interaction Associates showing that trustworthiness has decreased in many offices in recent years.

Management Tips: Thomas J. DeLong, the Philip J. Stomberg Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, says managers must increase the self-awareness of prideful employees.

The author of Flying Without a Net said: “When someone becomes more self-aware, you can deactivate them so they take a different perspective. They know it’s not good for them, but it feels good in the short-term.

“Explain what you’re seeing — “I notice that you like to get everything right” — and then help them see the downsides.”